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45

could afford to were holding on, playing safe, waiting to see
how the cat would jump, " I reckon 111 just hold on a mite
longer if I kin git me something to eat for my folks," they
would tell him. But when he said that now was the time to
sign, that the Association would see its members through,
they would say, " Naw, I ain't signing nothing." And their
long, grave faces would stiffen as they shook their heads.
"You've signed mortgages," he would tell them bitterly,
" you've signed away your land all right." They would shake
their heads, saying: "I've signed mortgages, God's plenty of
'em, but I ain't signing this. I never was one to let any man
tell me what I could do. I don't aim to have any man tell
me when I can sell my crop."

When one of those men with whom he talked face to face
at the small meetings around the section did sign, Mr. Munn
would regard the process with a cold avidity, his eyes never
leaving the red, strong-knuckled fingers that guided the pen
until he saw the last stroke completed. Each name, it
always seemed in retrospect, involved himself peculiarly,
representing something of himself to himself; and almost
always, upon witnessing the act of signing, he experienced
the grip of an absolute, throbless pleasure in which he seemed
poised out of himself and, as it were, out of time. Then the
man who had signed would slowly lay down the pen, and
look up.

He attended dozens of such meetings. People would come
together, on a good afternoon, in front of a country store or
in the clearing before some little white church at a cross-
roads. He would glance restlessly about him, at the calm
blue of the sky, the ^dust-covered growth along the f encerow
by the road, the trees hung with the coloured leaves. Then,
getting up on the steps of the church, he would look at the
people who had come together to hear him. Then, when the
people grew quiet, he would lean toward them earnestly, and
speak.

In late November he attended a meeting in the Rose Creek
section. It had been raining for three days before the meet-